by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
February 18, 2016
WILL THE GOP RISK ELECTORAL OBLIVION?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's been an article of conservative faith for more than three decades that the Democratic Party is not a legitimate part of our nation's government.
If a Democrat happens to be elected President, he is not allowed to govern.
If Democrats hold a majority in Congress, they are not allowed to enact public policy.
If a majority of the electorate supports Democratic policies and ideas, that majority must not be listened to, because the Democratic Party is illegitimate and unfit to govern.
And when a conservative talks about "bipartisanship," they define the word as acquiescing to their policies and ideas without debate.
This is why it is not surprising that Republicans in the U.S. Senate are hell-bent on making sure that President Obama does not get to exercise his constitutional responsibility by selecting a replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
It's fairly unusual for a Supreme Court justice to die while still in office. Before Scalia's death, only two justices have died in office in the past six decades - Robert H. Jackson in 1954 and William H. Rehnquist in 2005. Retirement has become the usual way off the bench, and six justices have retired since 1990.
While Scalia had health problems, his death was totally unexpected by Court observers. With Scalia's death on Feb. 13, the conservative majority on the Court has been reduced by one, and right-wingers are in a state of panic.
Obama will likely select a new justice that will be similar to his previous two appointments, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, i.e., someone who is not a batsh-t crazy conservative. Chances are that his selection will be a someone already on the federal bench who's gone through the vetting process.
The irony is that while conservatives are praising Scalia for his staunch defense of the principle of constitutional originalism - that what the nation's founders wrote in the 18th Ventury is the final word on jurisprudence - they see no problem in ignoring the Constitution and blocking President Obama from making an appointment.
Previous presidents have made appointments to the Court - 17 in all - in election years, the last two being Lewis Powell and William H. Rehnquist in 1972, when President Richard Nixon was running for re-election
Presidents have also made appointments in the final year of their terms, as President Ronald Reagan did when he appointed Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1988 (whom Democrats unanimously voted to confirm in a presidential election year.)
And for all the conservative talk of letting "the American people" decide the next Supreme Court justice (by which they mean by first electing a Republican President in 2016), it must not be forgotten that 57.5 percent of eligible voters elected President Obama to a second term of office in 2012, which bestows on him the constitutional duty, privilege and responsibility to fill any vacancies on the Court until Jan. 20, 2017.
While all this is being framed in the corporate media as a fight between President Obama and a Republican Congress, the story is that the conservative temper tantrum is merely the latest chapter in the GOP's willful obstruction of the President and his political agenda, something they have done since his first day in office.
The GOP's demand that President Obama not pick a successor to Scalia is without precedent in our nation's history. The same goes for the threat that any pick of the President's will not get confirmed until after a new President takes office.
If they insist upon proceeding down that road, I'll make a prediction now: Not only will there be a Democratic win in the presidential election, but the Democrats will also retake control of the Senate and possibly the House of Representatives.
Why? Because the unprecedented Republican attempt to obstruct the President's performance of his constitutional duty will motivate a lot of Democratic and independent voters to get to the polls and throw out the obstructionists once and for all.
Are Republicans in the Senate, particularly the ones up for re-election, willing to risk a landslide loss in November for this cause? We'll see.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 35 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.